Nearly one in four adults in the US has varicose veins, or visibly distorted, purplish leg veins that swell, bulge, and twist against the surface of the skin. Although anyone can get varicose veins, women are far more likely than men to have them.
In fact, women are twice as likely as men to develop varicose veins, especially as they age. The reason? It mostly comes down to hormones.
Read on as our skilled team of board-certified specialists at Vascular Vein Centers discusses why women are more susceptible to varicose veins, explains how you can reduce your risk of developing them, and offers a list of minimally invasive treatment solutions that can help you get rid of them in no time flat.
Understanding how varicose veins develop
Your veins have one job: to transport deoxygenated blood from your body back to your heart and lungs, so it can be reinfused with fresh oxygen before it reaches your arteries and heads back out to your body. This continuous process is hardest on your leg veins, which must often work against gravity to keep blood moving in the right direction.
The extra pressure on your leg veins makes them more susceptible to becoming swollen and distorted, or varicose. This process begins to unfold when the one-way valves that keep blood flowing efficiently through your veins become weak or damaged.
As blood repeatedly collects behind dysfunctional vein valves, it exerts significant force on the surrounding vessel wall. Over time, these high-pressure vein sections swell, twist, and distort, eventually forming a visible varicose vein. Sprawling networks of smaller spider veins develop in much the same way.
Why women are susceptible to varicose veins
Women are far more likely to develop varicose veins than men for one reason: At higher levels, female reproductive hormones (estrogen and progesterone) can have a negative effect on vein health and function.
Both these hormones rise and fall at various times within a woman’s monthly menstrual cycle; they also increase dramatically during pregnancy. Women who take hormonal birth control with progestin (synthetic progesterone) only or a combination of estrogen and progestin also have higher levels of these hormones in their blood.
Together, these two hormones can have a “one-two punch” effect on your leg veins:
- Progesterone relaxes blood vessel walls
- Estrogen decreases vein valve function
Either of these effects makes it harder for your veins to keep blood flowing efficiently from your lower extremities back to your heart and lungs; when they happen concurrently, varicose veins often develop more rapidly than usual — such as over the course of a pregnancy.
Factors that make varicose veins more likely
Female reproductive hormones aren’t the only significant risk factor for varicose veins. Other risk factors that make their appearance more likely include:
- Older age
- Taller height
- Family history
- Being overweight
- Multiple pregnancies
- Tobacco use (smoking)
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle
- Standing still for long stretches
As you might suspect, the more “risk factor boxes” you’re able to tick, the more susceptible you are to developing varicose veins. Luckily, you can take action to reduce your chances of getting varicose veins, too.
Prevention strategies and treatment options
There are four important actions you can take to reduce your varicose vein risk. Starting as soon as possible, you should aim to:
- Refrain from all tobacco use
- Reach and maintain a healthy body weight
- Get 30-60 minutes of moderately intense exercise most days
- Elevate your legs several times a day, especially if you’re often on your feet
It can also be helpful to wear prescription compression stockings if your occupation keeps you on your feet or during pregnancy. These custom devices help prevent varicose vein formation by assisting and improving circulation in your lower legs.
If you already have varicose veins, we offer a full scope of treatment solutions to help you get rid of problematic veins for good. A typical treatment plan incorporates a minimally invasive vein removal treatment like sclerotherapy or endovenous laser therapy (EVLT), along with lifestyle modifications and compression therapy to help prevent recurrence.
Whether you’re interested in varicose vein prevention, treatment, or both, our expert team at Vascular Vein Centers can help. Call or click online to book an appointment at your nearest office — we have six Central Florida locations in College Park of Orlando, Waterford Lakes of East Orlando, Kissimmee, Davenport/Haines City, Lake Mary, and The Villages, Florida.